Shachi Kurl on the question [Quebec discrimination in Bills 21 and 96]

Good rebuttal to the unfair criticism and cravenness of Canadian federal leaders:

The question to Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet created a controversy in Quebec, taking on a narrative and a legend of its own. It led the National Assembly to censure me, cartoonists to ridicule me and party leaders to demand an apology.

So here was the question: “You deny that Quebec has problems with racism. Yet you defend legislation such as Bills 96 and 21, which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones, and allophones. For those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws.”

To those asking me to take it all back: I stand by the question. Unequivocally.

I stand by it because the question gave Mr. Blanchet the opportunity to talk to people outside Quebec, about secularism, about laïcité. He could have shared the Quebec perspective with the rest of Canada. He chose not to.

I stand by it because the Quebec government has or signalled it will override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect Bills 21 and 96 from legal challenges over discrimination. And because the National Assembly included provisions in Bill 21 and 96 to override the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, leaving many Quebeckers feeling vulnerable and as Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-André Blanchard put it in regard to Bill 21, dehumanized.

I stand by it because what does it say about the state of our democracy that a question is deemed unaskable? Who gets to decide which issues are appropriate to discuss during a federal election campaign? What does it really say about the convictions of our political leaders when they choose to make me a target to divert from their own position on a critical issue of personal freedom?

What does it say about journalism when seasoned reporters and political commentators were shocked that I dared to “go there?” Is the state of our federation so weak that we cannot even raise questions about it?

Alexander Tytler, the 17th-century Scottish philosopher, wrote democracy lasts only about 200 years. A quote commonly attributed to him says that part of the cycle moves from courage to liberty, then to abundance, to selfishness, to complacency, then apathy, and eventually back to bondage. I hope we are not on the downslope of this cycle.

During my silence – appropriate during the election campaign – people encouraged me to educate myself about Quebec. I don’t live there, but I have spent time in places like the Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean and La Malbaie. Operating entirely in French, I experienced a lasting immersion in Québécois pride and history, and in Quebeckers’ outlook on secularism, survival and the strong desire to maintain culture and language. Learning is never finished.

I have heard and listened to what people have said about the question, and the hurt it caused in Quebec. Could it have been phrased differently? Yes. Do I ultimately believe a change in wording would have prevented Mr. Blanchet, Quebec Premier François Legault, and party leaders Justin Trudeau, Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh from exploiting it all for their own purposes? No.

Becoming the story was not a life goal. Yet what happened was just craven politics. What else would Mr. Blanchet have done in the midst of a sagging campaign? Politically, it made sense that Mr. O’Toole, Mr. Trudeau, and Mr. Singh piled on in order to protect their Quebec campaigns rather than stand on principle.

Other things were a little harder to take. Columnists wrote that I was “aggressive,” or “shrill,” likening my tone to that of a “mom,” using “chains” to keep order. The only square they didn’t blot on that particular bingo card appears to be “nasty woman.”

But this isn’t about them. It’s about Canadians. I did the debate as a public service, not to earn gold stars. Some people didn’t like it or didn’t like my style. That’s okay. Polling from our own organization found that 53 per cent of older men found the debate engaging, I’ll take that split. It is notable that number rose to 65 per cent among women 18 to 34. Past, meet the future.

For all the disagreement, and there has been a lot, I’ve had thousands of messages of appreciation from across the country, including Quebec. Notes of thanks for not taking the leaders talking points at face value. People who wrote saying they don’t usually watch the whole debate, but did that night with their children. Teenagers who talked about the debate in class and concluded I was “badass.” Women thanking me for being prepared, fierce, professional and strong.

On the way out of Ottawa, I stopped in Toronto, where I was met at the hotel door by a bellman.

“I think I saw you the other night.” Here we go, I thought to myself.

“And what did you think?”

“It was great!” I could tell he had more to say. He was holding back.

“Look, it’s okay. I can take it.”

“I just want to tell you … I just … I’m really glad you asked that question.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-i-was-asked-to-apologize-for-my-question-in-the-leaders-debate-i-stand/?utm_campaign=David%20Akin%27s%20🇨🇦%20Roundup&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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